by Siobhan Brett
Since early 2009, more than 40 per cent of Irish electricity customers and 20 per cent of gas customers have switched energy suppliers.
Comparing prices in an environment of conflicting deals and rates can be difficult - Flogas, ESB Electric Ireland and Airtricity all advertise percentage savings to be gained by switching their supply.
Although the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) does not offer a price comprison tool on its websites, it has announced the launch of a new framework to accredit cost-comparison websites that meet defined standards of accuracy and reliability. The CER has yet to receive an application for accreditation, but has been in contact with a number of interested parties in relation to it.
There are a number of privately operated consumer and price comparison websites. One of the better known is Bonkers.ie, which allows consumers to compare gas and electricity prices as well as broadband/phone prices and savings accounts. To compare energy prices, it requires the name of the current supplier, the method by which the energy bill is paid, the natural gas tariff, and the curreent level of spending, be it annually, or bi-monthly.
Th site wil generate a list of suppliers and rates based on those details, and lists "expected total annual savings". By clicking "Proceed" consumers come to an option to switch provider from the site. Bonkers advises that consumers can save the most money on home energy bills by taking gas and electricity from separate suppliers. Uchoose.ie offers a similar facility and provides a pie chart breakdown of the fuel mix of different energy suppliers.
The National Consumer Agency has and online facility, The Economiser, which generates cost-cutting advice for families in a number of areas, including energy. None of the information provided is supplier specific, but it will give you an idea of where your spending falls against the national average, as well as other cost reduction advice. The Economiser can be accessed via www.consumerconnect.ie.